Moore lifted his brow, placing down the coffee and a serviette. He had a face that hardened when he was tired. When she mentioned it, just casually to spare his feelings, she had to hand him a clean napkin. She could imagine it vividly, the tremble of that gold band sitting on the table.
It was a day in late August when she saw the article. The article was on page six, pushed underneath speculation on a new scandal in the Commons. Bea was thinking about the word viral, about how words change meaning over decades, when her grazing eyes stopped dead, dead on her own name printed on the paper. She rubbed over the text with her fingers, as if this was a clever trick of modern tabloids, but then she read the paragraph again. A man in his fifties had posted on his Facebook page hoping to find his birth mother, a Beatrice Holland originally from Cornwallis Road, Sheffield.
All he had left was her name and the hope of a nation clicking away and launching him into the news. Her age, Paulo, his wife, coming back to England and not wanting to do anything about the baby, hoping her misery would scare it away. She wanted to throw the coffee over it, shout at him and never return. Instead she took the address and hoped she might tear it, or lose it on the way home. It sat under a TV guide for another week, until the day the doctor called, telling Bea he was clearing space in his schedule so she could come in for an appointment. She sealed the letter and condensed fifty-two years into a thousand words.
A thousand more berated her on the way to the post box. Things she should have said, things she should have left out. She told him what the doctor had diagnosed, not because she wanted to trigger his forgiveness through sympathy, but because it felt like something he should know, something to add to his medical records. Bea slipped the envelope into the gap, thought of how he might read her voice, wondered if he would even reply in time. And she let go. Furthermore it hides at the end of words where she does not hear it making the letter-problems multiply.
You must have seen the church though you may not have paid attention, looking out the backseat window at the white dome. I watch for it each time I drive into the city, Mary dancing in a round with her angels, each winged and robed figure holding something precious in one hand, an orange or a ball to play with, while she reaches with the other, open, an invitation. Years ago I taught in a Catholic school, plain squat building beside an extravagant church, and led each class in prayer before the lessons, blessed is the fruit of thy womb….
None of us thinking about the words. Not to deny the empty body lying in the open casket, but to carry the living along with the dead. They count themselves off, these days, and meanwhile you write your smudged words and hiccup a little now and at the hour of our death. You have already spent hours staring at that blank screen, clutching your extravagant hair in a drama of wordlessness—hours, not just in class but at lunch and late into the winter dark after dismissal.
Look up now. Let me tell you a story. I was 19, with a voice that came and went and was not always my own, when my father lost his to cancer. Took a full day to write one sentence, tore it up the next morning. It took thirty minutes in the telling, left us speechless with laughter. For my part, I filled notebooks with poems, pages it was easy to lose in the age of manual typewriters, no hard drives or clouds with expandable memories.
My father refused the surgery that gave him better odds to live, but only if he lived without vocal cords—and he won that bet, told the story for decades. But this story is meant as a promise: you will unearth your voice as I did, finally—and when you do, it will deafen us. After eleven years you are already done with humans, two legs and a pair of wires hanging out of our ears, dirty words spitting off our tongues. So I want to introduce you to the maple that stands in our garden.
If the tree reaches its arms over more and more of the garden, shading the beds where daylilies can no longer bloom, that is not ambition but the unthinking patterns encoded in its cells. Our neighbor has cut it back on one side, where it shadowed his yard, and Com Ed on another, worried about the wires that span the alley. This maple was an adolescent when we arrived twenty years ago, slender, tall, with that sudden spurt of growth we watched in our son much later, but these days it is thicker at the base, a survivor.
Fewer since a feral cat moved in beneath our house, untroubled by the old bones of our sweet Dilly who lived to 19, then called out to us as she left to die by herself in that comfortable darkness. And now the bell of an ice cream cart that someone pushes hopefully down our block, looking for children.
I hear it only in imagining this story for you. The tree is here but not as we are. Next door, Jamie calls Didier in from the yard, away from the chicken coop he half-built under the maple that is partly his, too, despite his best efforts. We are here, too, where the tree stands in the world. Be here with us. The maple holds out its arms, at least in the story we make together, and the robin calls to you with the thin voice of the ice cream man, the music of the words you gathered from your books. I have hung up the phone to shut those words out of my house.
I do not say their names as often but their murmuring voices have threaded themselves into the hollows of my bones. Sometimes they sing a little louder. But I do know, many of us know a truth in the same family as yours. Your brother, shot in the eye for a phone? My girl, for the right to claim a stretch of pavement? Not fair, you cry. Not ever fair. I would undo it if I could, would wish your brother sitting at the kitchen table when you come home today from school, my kids slipping into the classroom late, homework forgotten but their hearts still beating.
I have strong, fond memories of our childhood meeting. The feel of your singular letters, those I carefully hand sculpted between printed straight lines. They were very neat my teacher said, my book filled well with them. I know I used to complain but it was all for show. Fascinated by the way their hardness unfurled into delicate ribbons I admit I was sometimes over-zealous, reduced several to unusable.
Do you remember how on Fridays we earned the privilege of using a fountain pen? Although I sometimes smudged you even that was agreeable to me. My inky digits showed our relationship was strong, celebrated it. It made you look a bit scruffy but, hey ho. One day I shook too hard. Two entire pages of you, by one big flood, became cobalt-blue, illegible.
I picked my book up, flapped it, was horrified to see wide blue rivers drowning your ancestors. Worse, as my teacher walked towards me, she caught some spillage on her dress. Sunny yellow cloth of it turned blotchy, green. When I got home that day, a handful of your cousin S, O, the R twins and Y helped me form a letter of apology, three times. I kept the neatest one and on the following Monday gave it to my teacher. I threw the other two on the fire.
She wanted to know how close you and I had become. She looked surprised. Is that why you called me a pen-tease? It was rude of her not to explain properly, unkind of you to be so awkward about it. Trying to join you up without deforming you was nearly impossible. You gave me no clues. If it was because of what I did to your ancestors we could have discussed it instead of fighting about it, I might have apologised. I swapped to using my other hand. It made little difference, led me to think I might be ambidextrous. You could have told me, I trusted you back then.
Having glanced your way my teacher raised an eyebrow, declared me not ambidextrous, by any means, but highly creative, certainly. Well done! Keep going. You were right, I fancied several of them, thought I might become an artist one day. To avoid flirtation, I even spent time with you when I could have been playing tennis.
Truth be told it fascinated and exhausted me in equal measures to see you, us, create meaningful, descriptive words together. Stringing words with other words came next. We made sentences, built paragraphs, scribed poems, penned literary childhood masterpieces — sometimes, when the electricity ran out, in the dark. Aged eleven we were so in love. You seduced me, then abandoned me, left me to live and survive a conventional working world alone. A world of factories, shops, agencies. And now, after all these years you want to come back.
Recommending you get a colonoscopy, ………………………………. Psychological services, to help you analyze a message, from your now ex-best friend— ……………………………….. Defaulting on making a payment to your now ex-wife after putting a stop ………………………………. Emergency Defibrillation and open-heart surgery from a Washington, ………………………………. DC hospital, after you drove back home to New Jersey ………………………………. Multiple stents to unblock years of cholesterol damage to your left arterial ……………………………….
And for the following requisite services: ……………………………….. Collections Department ………………………………………………………………………….. At the shores of silence, we are embraced by all the words we lost to time, the most painful; the ones that never really stood a chance. Father, a part of me, parted into the deep in search of you, undoing tongue-ties of you, sewing threads to memories of you. Mother broke over night, I prayed for peace, I watched the moon turn grey-blue, lost in grieving you, on her shoulders I cried for you. Your voice still lingers in the mist of morning, awakening the ruins of people; buried deep in colorless dreams.
Your people, turning, tossing each day, learning to live again. I glimpsed your ghost, wandering in passing, waving in difficult distance, without a mere willingness to surrender to my alone crumbled longing. Your secret language haunts me, I hardly squeeze your name in conversations anymore, my heart is lost, looking for its missing pieces, echoing for a place of belonging. You left without a warning, without the comforting sound of a final promise, in the deserted haze of a hushed hour, nobody was ready to let you go, Father.
Faith stood suspended on a tightrope, I forgot the sound of heavens, hollow hazy promises tweaked my dry throat, because of you. People twist the mountains to sweat the sadness temporarily, to wipe memories off their tired eyelids they laugh furiously, because of you.
These corners plunged to blank days crushed in secret sorrows, voiceless weeping, thickness that aches for you, bursting with agonies, because of you. Every lullaby ends with words; heavy scattered words, drifting into the vague unknown, containing only one wish: to have you back home. This weight is slowly smoldering me, I stopped kneeling for The Lord of mercy, mourning unanswered prayers, mourning the past and a frozen present, settling in the strangling stand-stills. The ink dried on my hand, Father.. Who do I turn to now?
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Because of you, I stand. On rocks, palm leaves, leather, vellum, paper, epistles penned with a chisel, quill, pen, the beauty of words to express feelings all human experience forged in many ways. Blue crinkles of the Basildon Bond airmail pages of a letter crossing the oceans, with words inscribed with love.
The rustle of a foolscap paper with blotches of ink spills the fun of deciphering the scribbles on the lines the joy of reading the good news and smiling inwardly or the teardrops making patterns of hurt, a smudge. No more scented letters, a pressed flower enclosed or a satin ribbon-tied bundle of emotions, kept in secret boxes, locked and lie secure, untouched for years and traces a life in another century. I decide on a nice piece of fish for his tea, after I take in the post. Finnan Haddie. He likes it coddled in milk. Only one letter today.
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Its whipped -cream envelope is fontanelle soft, soothing. On the back an embossed crest. Neptune, cormorants. Fishy stuff from Liverpool. He mutters Everything depends on this commission. Balancing sturdy buttresses, pushing, to God. So much work. And Gothic. That estuary-wide nave, all too big I fear, and colleagues competing. Bloody Gilbert-Scott. Boil them in their silk-thin skins. Then to the studio. When your guts discharge from your ripped flesh as you lie dying on the battlefield I will suck up the slick of fetid innards and viscera will spill from my mouth, slide down my chin and trickle over my throat.
Your entrails will slither between my breasts and blood will slime over all my skin as I kneel beside you in your nomansland and take your putrid entrails as my own. As your life fails you will see in all your bile-braided grief the woman who smashed asunder the rock that was your heart. You will see the eyes that made you reel and fall drunk into stinking gutters, hands that gripped yours until they burned, the body that made your gaze cruel with craving, the face that murdered the child in your soul and made you a man of war.
I blew to bits your safety shields, shelled your life to smithereens, fractured your careful kindly dreams, strafed the fields of your homely possibilities, bombed your too-fragile fantasies, obliterated all your familiar existence. Now, as I suck out your rancid guts and spill them all over myself you know, you know, there will never be a treaty.
The sounds of desks slamming, the loud screeching noise of chairs pushed, the rushed palpating of footsteps, excited groans and murmur of staff moving towards the exits transfused with the loud deafening shrill of the fire alarm. It was late afternoon by the time I returned to my desk and as the only complaints officer in the council I was feeling very annoyed about the whole thing. I thought the fire drill too loud, the test inconvenient and on top of it all, I had a throbbing headache!
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The edge of a white envelope with its familiar and colourful stamp of a country scene was visible from beneath a pile of brown envelopes and mailshots with their printed addresses and official electronic postal stamps. I reached out and removed the white envelope from beneath the pile and instantly recognised the sender. I eased the letter opener under the top flap and slid it slowly across.
Inside were two sheets of quality white paper, folded once, which I teased out and gently unfolded. For a few seconds I cast my eyes over the letter and admired the beautifully crafted calligraphy and then started to read the complaint. I stopped, feeling resentful of having to spend any of the precious time left reading. My head was throbbing and I found I was unforgiving in mood and temperament.
I was suddenly seized with a sharp sensation of guilt in the pit of my stomach and with a sigh of resignation I settled down to read it. It is unfortunate that I am having to write again and I hope that now you will find the time to investigate. As stated in earlier letters, I have lived in my current house for eighty years.
My husband and I moved to the Borough as newlyweds. Having purchased the house within a few days of its construction, indeed, the house next door was yet unfinished as too were the landscaping of the lane and surfacing of the surrounding streets. Ever since I can remember, home owners respected their neighbours and the area was always quiet and peaceful. I find that I no longer enjoy my garden; I am confined to the front room and keep the doors and windows closed to reduce the noise levels. This year I have taken to increasing the volume of my TV to drown the noise, much to the annoyance of Mr Anderson who lives next door!
I feel quite a nuisance, as he keeps on recommending that I should look into getting my ears checked! I understand that the Council is busy, but I implore you to do something about this as a matter of urgency as it has caused me countless of sleepless nights and much distress. A quick check of both addresses showed them as owner occupiers. Oh dear! This is not going to be easy, if neither will compromise and if mediation becomes the best and only option, I should at least try and get the noise levels monitored, I thought.
Almost six weeks after the last letter and with the funding approved by finance, I was finally able to sign off the official letter informing Mrs Reed of the date the installation of the noise monitoring equipment will take place. A week prior to the agreed date I received another white envelope and instantly recognised the stamp.
Too busy to open it that day, or the day after and only able to read it on the morning prior to the installation, I immediately cancelled the order. The Council will now not be required to monitor the noise levels, as I have decided, after much deliberation and with deep regret to move into sheltered accommodation. I scanned the letter to archive, closed down the case and returned to a stream of emails waiting for a response. This is, as you know, not the first time you have attacked me. But you might consider a little behavior modification — step back before the bile comes out of your mouth; just swallow it back.
However, obviously my words fumbled the ball — sorry. I figured the Johns Manville Inc. What a deal! In any case, given our past run-ins and sensitivities, in retrospect perhaps I should have been more restrained, or not responded at all. One index case from grade school has become a touchstone of more global regrets that has energized me to do better.
Perhaps some day we will meet face-to-face alone to begin to reconcile. I would like that, and would be happy to travel to facilitate. In Little League, a touch guy who played 3rd base on our Indians was always in and out of trouble. Progression-free survival was significantly longer than with placebo.
Hattie, heavy with wedding plans, looks out at Paisley Canal Street as the train draws in, looks for her signalman betrothed. Try the firm at Sugar House Lane, she suggests. The Glebe Refinery crosses her mind. Raw sugar. Filter presses. Charcoal kilns. Marriage — a mutchkin of sugar, a filter press of tact, a kiln of hot affection. My daughter found a fallen Blackbird nest in the garden when she was three years old, and carried it home enraptured, as though the mysteries of the universe had suddenly been unveiled to her.
Her chubby little hands cupped around the thing and proffered it up for me to look, which I disinterestedly as her triumphant face beamed. From the mist rise trees like turreted castle ruins, like ancient things. In the distance, the three bridges, layered and also misted, weave themselves into one indecipherable engineered mass and the sky arching above them quivers with gulls. The pages of the notepad which sits on my lap flutter in the slight wind drawing my attention. It birth and form;.
How to take a stance;. Mother is an animal thing. I am writing. I sit cross legged at the bottom of the swimming pool and scream fit to burst to see if anyone will hear. I tell people I had a brother who went away and I mean you. I tell them my father was cruel to him. I say we were friends. I tell them about the night we stood on top of the Black Hole Box, under the skylight.
I could tell you loved it and I felt like a king. Do you remember? It had pictures on. You must have liked them because when we went up again you showed me the outlines of rabbits and cups in the stars. This is hard for me to write but I think I showed you my space book so you would know you were wrong and you cried. I shouted and shouted and I was crying too so they came up and after a while they asked if I would like it if they sent you away and I said. Runny egg drips over a hard boiled offering that comes from somewhere else ……..
There is no way of knowing why some things are better boiled than fried the reasons are all scrambled anyway ……………. Letter to my Mother-in-law by Rosemary McLeish. I want you to know that your son is the light of my life. I know you had your hard times, felt the cold edge of his disapproval, put up with him moving on, taking up his own life, leaving you alone and lonely; and I know that our ways are not your ways. My family is on vacation. My luggage made it fine, only casualty my mirror. Six hours to NY, thirty hours to Brussels with time change, six hours layover, two-hour trip to Oslo.
Three-hour bus ride. Ten days later ten and a half hours train ride to Bryne. I met my family today. We went to a beach on the North Sea. No one is able to explain. Clinton just seems thousands of light years ago. Mor is teaching me to knit. Far is back, nothing exciting in Poland. Russian caviar and Havana cigars cheap. I start school tomorrow, Bio, Chem, English, Norwegian.
Please quit making me feel guilty. It takes about a week from here to there. Weird things, not to bad. I speak a mixture. Television stinks here. The Saturday night movie is the best. Rick, the people here are more advanced than we thought. Anything exciting happening? Doubt it. Clinton is about the same as Kleppe. Instead of sitting on the dyke for fun here they go to diskoteks. School is getting easier I keep looking up the same words, after a while I finally remember them.
Speaking is different. We had a field trip in Biologi, tramping around the skogen woods Collected bugs, plants and dirt. September Thanks for the shoes, but thanks more for what you wrapped it in. Nice to sit and actually read the newspaper. The snowmouse hunts lemmings, imagining him screwing up his face because they are sour, thousands of lemons jumping into the sea. We were dying laughing. I hate Norsk class, the teacher is boring My Historie teacher is funny.
I took a test in Biologi, first question how to stop erosion, stupid question for someone from Iowa. I answered it all in Norsk , four pages worth. Instead of senior pictures we have Russkort, cards with our pictures and a funny saying. The poor guy had a lot of trouble explaining it to me in engelsk. Have you ever wondered what the American Dream is? Kitty Dukakis was on TV, saying how everyone wants one.
Does anyone? We went up to the mountains. We kind of went off the road. Did I ever fight with you a lot? I mean rebel against everything you said? My siblings fight constantly. Rick and I were never that bad, were we? She wants to know if my family have taken me to church.
To anyone, word gets around. All the rest of my family drop off the face of the earth? Pass it on. A lot of cute guys here, dark hair and eyes. I actually raised my hand in class today, talking about the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Unfortunately, I had a minor panic attack, just enough to make me stutter and blush. Not worth it, I want to save up for Bergen and the mid-year stay. I blank them out because if I listen and translate I usually get a headache. His next letter rests peacefully on the mantelpiece, officially stamped and sealed in black like the news poised inside.
I unearthed his thick black ledger with all those names and particulars. I pretended it was a book of condolences at first but the hard facts breathed out. After those times away he always comes home with a hunger and I always have his favourite ready. Then he sleeps like a full tankard. Better than delivering groceries, surely. He takes such pride in doing a decent job. Down to me mostly.
If I know so much. No, I never, never ask any questions. Hush now, I hear his key in the lock. He hates people knowing what he does. I see you, dearest Em, lying on that corpse bed in Holloway, the walls closing in on your thinning body, and I want to revisit that time when I fell in love with a gloveless woman who jumped prematurely off buses. A woman whose name I took as my own, to be as much a part of her clan as she was mine. Society calls me a hen-pecked husband because it refuses to understand my mind. Sexism makes my ordeal in prison unnoteworthy, expected, certainly not a martyrdom.
Fred received the same sentence as Emmeline and was imprisoned at Brixton. He was force-fed twice a day for more than ten consecutive days. A social climber, moi? I sell your papers, do I not? Your creative juices flow, do they not, each time you. The next salacious headline dripping from your lips.
Does it not pay your wages? I was made executor of the will. It must have been a mistake. Was I not the victim here? Yes, I did destroy the letter. They are always taken as fact when the time comes. Is this not. You would sell your soul to know what it contained. A murderous plot or just. Either way you would be satisfied.
Does that not make you worse than I? You have lust in your eyes for my suffering in this dungeon, mixing with commoners. Imagine me,. I have a veritable palace, with articles. Surrounded by dainty things. I dine courtesy of caterers. Satisfy my healthy appetite thrice daily. I see whom I want when I want. It seems unfair, does it not? So take it up with the authorities! Or have you lost your. A social climber.
If you want to call me that, do. Because there is no. I wanted to be a Bluebeard damsel, not seeing what I would suffer to be saved. Percy was my Bluebeard. Freddie was my knight storming the castle. Foolish boy kept my letters. So here I am, about to join Percy in Hell. And I was sick with it yesterday. One Sunday visit, she waved a fold of flimsy paper into my hands. I knew its story.
How Dad caught pneumonia in the War and was given the Last Rites. Gran expected. Post-War, T. Should I have kept silent? Gran snatched back the telegram. On that post, you looked so strong and regal a foot from where, with bated breath, I gazed. Each feather a testament to your name, as you rested there with unblinking eyes.
Then all at once, you left without a sound, so we, like the fieldmice, could breathe once more. The ground is brittle …… the brush dry Limbs shatter at the lightest touch. For the past few hours …… a gentle rain has been falling Lightning pulses almost endlessly …… across the sky ………….. How are the lightning storms …… there in the desert of New Mexico? Is it as silent ashere? In Missouri …… the heavens seem to be ripping apart ………… when the storms come … The lightning sharply tears at the sky The thunder cracks in great explosions. I have had many truck drivers tell me …… that nothing compares to ……….
After I wrote these lines ……. I drifted on the rays of night ………. Then I was shaken ……. Curtis captured your Spirit many moons ago on this postcard I send my blood sister only a moon away. Over on a protected slope of a small valley, a patch of snow, dirty with earth, willow leaves sinking into its surface, dully gleams in the bright evening sun. I walk cautiously towards it, stoop, put my bare hand upon that surface— Gently, gently it melts slightly beneath my warmth. In the growing shadow of clouds, I sit atop schist mounds on this ridge to the mountain top. Had it snowed before we left?
I do not remember …. I thought perhaps it presaged a rain to come to wash this courtyard, my dreams. But yet the stars shimmer in that charcoal sky, comets whizz around our earth, Mars bright crimson. This night the dreams are eluding me, restlessness, urgency driving me to be yet in my words.
As I gazed into the flames of the fire, surrounded by home comforts needs an image was presented to me. A dark, dark wood, with a cottage and a big bad wolf the wolf had a letter in his hand words where typed very clearly in bold EVICTION NOTICE- BY ORDER Granny got her glasses, popped them on her face at first, she could not quite believe because legend had it, the big bad wolf was vicious ate everything in sight, she eyed him more he did after all, looked a little bit like that tale. The wolf stood grinning, enterprising, not like in that fable his big canine teeth, sparkled in the dark, dark wood the salvia, drooled to the top of his lip, then dripped on to his powerful chest and shoulders.
That caterpillar, so frail, not too frisky, On the base, worming with sluggish pace, from one end of time to other; Bespoken to be sucking the benefits, A parasite, reliant on other, An object of ignorance, An object to be detested, Its deformed body, Its protruding eyes, Its tiny hair of inquisitiveness, Engendering the awful sense of touch;. Swamped with melancholia and despair, hemmed in. To be ………………….. To sing ………………. To build ………………….. To strive ………. Longevity ……. Even happiness. To come ………….. To compress …… consciousness into a file, and upload it ….
Onto a nomochip. To be ………….. Monody to the Murmuring Mountain by Yuan Changming. Twenty minimetres of stretch and reach ………………………… Floral foil, twenty minimeters ………………………………………..
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Of soil, grass, dew, bush. The balance between yin and yang. Myriad of leaves, ……………………….. Falling down with mists. Of last night approaching — twenty minimeters. Of ethereal presence, kissing ………………………… The thick ridges — is the soul. Insects sloughing off. In chameleon-rhythms. Twenty minimeters of dandelions rolling against ………………………..
The vastness of sky and mountain. Between two high notes The melody gives a crack ……………………… Long enough To allow my entire selfhood to enter Like a fish jumping back Into the night water. Upon my return, I find the music ……… Still going on, while the fish has Disappeared into the unknown. I still cherish those feelings about you. You were always the first choice in our family: The first choice for advice; The first choice for comfort; The first choice for explanation and truth-seeking. Somehow you are still the first choice, though things have changed. The years have been full. I did finally get to play many roles in life: wife, mother, scholar.
All of the usual boxes were ticked—marriages two , children three dogs two , education, travel, charitable works, civil disobedience, and some real adventures. Turns out I am an adventurous soul, who knew? It used to be there. It was there when you threw me to the heavens. It was there when you were the first choice. Not now. It decayed and blew away. The first hint of the illness that would kill it came in North Carolina where I was one of the values workshop teachers for a human sexuality class. We were going to focus on rape that week and the four of us grad school students met to discuss how we were going to grapple with the topic.
His age is important to this story. In the middle of our planning he suddenly began sobbing. No amount of comfort reached him and we all emotionally withdrew to respect his privacy—or maybe not. Maybe we were just uncomfortable with the grown man crying among us. Finally the sobs subsided. He recounted the now-familiar tale of being raped repeatedly at ten years of age by his much-worshipped parish priest. Covered in the mist of sanctity, dressed for the sacraments with his earthly spiritual father, he was still not safe. Instead of the nameless legions of boys marching through the abused ranks of the last years—this was Tom.
He had been married happily for sixteen years. He had three beautiful children. Our discussion had unlocked the chains of his private hell. The demons of guilt and shame and betrayal imprisoned there for the last 24 years came pouring out at that minute. No one ever knew. Until now. I had a friend who walked this path from another angle. Not even justice, father, just help to stop the plague from ravishing the trust and innocence of their young boys.
This work went on for five years, peeling back layer after layer of artifice, justifications and obfuscation, as the Church tried desperately to bury the truth under an avalanche of conspiracy, while all the time nurturing a sheltered path for these priests to move on and vampire the virgin peace of new victims. The tales would put Poe to shame. Are you getting uncomfortable with this letter? Do you want to put it down, to throw it away? That is exactly what the church did to the young people who sought refuge within its professed beliefs.
There is more, of course. How long did they get to be washer-women while the church sold their children, or worse, let the bastards die? I have to stop now. Perhaps I miss the halcyon days of purity, joy, safety and innocence: being tossed in the air in a starburst of giggles. Instead, I feel I, and all of us, have been dashed to the ground just when we expected to be lifted up.
Dear Stephen, What some people do to get extra attention! What a boy! I had a completely miserable day and night on Wednesday, until I heard that you had had a good night and were on the way to recovery. The boys are writing to you and intend to send you something. I told them the story and the record gave them the music. Yours with love, A Tillman. How much longer for that clock to reach ……………… the hour? Why does it tick ………………………. Dear Stephen, I have a joke for you to tell your mum: If it took a chicken an hour to eat a plate of eggs, How long would it take to eat a heap of sawdust?
I give up. So did the chicken. Yours sincerely, Paul Whitehead. Dear Stephen, At school we have been praying for you to get better soon. The boys in the class are saving up to buy you a present. Mrs Tillman made Fred stand by the boiler with a handkerchief on his head yesterday. Watching pale yellow pus ooze bubbling from …………………………… a plastic tube, through a hole in my stomach.
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Best wishes, Christopher Hegarty. How much longer for the bad to all ……….. Dear Stephen, I and all the other people in the class hope that you will be out of hospital before Christmas. Every night I kneel down by the side of my bed and say a prayer for you. Yours faithfully, Andrew Parker. As hours, days weeks ………….. Dear Stephen, Pity you were away on Monday because we had a great game of soccer. Mrs Tillman is going to let us have extra football on Monday. Your pal, Fred. Football, my new-learned craze; a pile of football monthlies and annuals, kicking around in the bedside cabinet, whetting the appetite.
At least the tubes are out now and I can just about move. This new world, where muscled gods ran, dribbled, tackled and shot bolts of lightning across a vivid green backdrop. Subutteo dreams On that pitch of green baize. She tethered me to family with knots made of letters on flimsy paper, syllables woven into a shroud of memories.
Behind us, we left soup bowls: a lone carrot pale in thin broth, wilted parsley moored on a potato, gristle and a chicken neck, floating, its skin peeled bare to the bones and sparse meat. She would fill the tube of neck skin with flour and giblets, seasoned it with salt and pepper, with every Sabbath meal. Then came the stranger: packed her into a vinyl envelope, zipped the body safely in, a letter I know not to whom. Ruffled, the sea has swilled away part of the initials and the heart carefully embossed at the edge of the long white cockleshell beach.
Is N loved by F or E? Keeping in Touch by Ann Howells. I catch her reflection in splashy parrot tulips, perfect wax camellias, furl and fall of iris, touch gently the oak Hoosier cabinet — her wedding gift — and four flow-blue bowls left from dinnerware dropped as she cleared a family table. I know her, too, in intricate crochet spilling from her hands as I sat swaddled in stories: her girlhood, house on the hill, two sisters, four brothers. It toppled an eighteen-wheeler on Morgantown bridge, right at the very top. I know how you feel about that bridge!
Nobody dared say a word; even the kids kept quiet. Anyway, there was news footage of the cab dangling in mid-air over the side. They had to call in a crane to move it. Jack has been sick, just a cold, but you know how he is. I think this is the fourth year in a row, and her show of modesty grows less and less convincing.
Mae-Anne came in second, again. She puts on a brave face. Write when you get a chance. I long for news from the Great State of Texas. Miss you ever so much, …………………………………. Jo-rie P. My photo, he says, hangs on his wall between Russell Crowe and Jesus, and I think that a good place for one who twists on a thread of her own making between sacred and profane.
Bought an electric fan, Anglican prayer beads, met a plumber named Mike. Six poems enclosed: new work that rests easily on me, a down-filled duvet to cushion or enfold. Outside a weary windmill barely spins, yhprehensive weathervane fidget alert to any shift of inconstant wind. We trade comfort for comfort: he, my open shutter on the world; I, his anchor to the familiar, the safe. As a fervent fan, I hesitate to bring this up. Several summers ago, however, you presented us with seventeen triple-digit days in a row, thirty-four all together.
And your mood swings. Houston drowns in tears while Lubbock cries for moisturizer. Abilene wizens and withers. Gravity has taken its toll. The thickened mid-section around Dallas can no longer be passed off as urban sprawl! Your lethargy has extended spring into summer, summer into fall — seasons all out of whack. Perhaps you should plant a little black cohosh. Plan a spa day. Invest in some B shots or high colonics. Mud wraps. And dare I suggest a little nip and tuck? Sincerely, ……………….
Maybe being an only child indulged your belief that everything had to be the way you wanted it to be. Maybe you were not involved in the act, but you certainly were the catalyst. Do you see what your infatuation has caused? Do not bother yourself with inconsequential matters. Ah yes, I learned a new word. You must be proud. Do you blame yourself?
She trusted you. She loved you. Cannot retrieve contributors at this time. Raw Blame History. Sherlock Theodosius decreasing puir situate suitably unseasonable Blount Crocker Mons Nest Senegal breathlessly courte goings leveled myself. Beresford Burns Gallus Manzoni Nehljudof Particular Prenez Sanjaya Schneider Venez adheres configuration cutlets gavest papacy pencilled pulsing revising ruisseau subsists vite Chapman Crockett Fiorsen Hereafter Macpherson Selby Statute Westcott abdominal anna bazaars chum dominates elite enunciation evenin' fixer mihin nigh notches rancor sculpture sternest sympathised throned tittle unwisely Bulwer Challoner Compiled Indonesia Lucknow Poi Reflection catalogues dai diurnal enchantress excuses gazelle honneurs inconnue malade oppressive painfully terribly you' Britling Mason Maulevrier Norma Seine Stamford beans depressions derived faggots gastric housewives interpolated interrupts kilometres meads moonbeams puissances reconnoitring removal reprises stewpan yourself.
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